E-Mail Filter Blocks More Than Spam

Harvard webmail, once praised for its high-tech “SpamAssassin” tool that purged virtually all spam from students’ e-mail accounts, has now been pegged as a distributor of spam itself.

On Thursday morning, the Harvard Alumni Association received two dozen complaints from frustrated alums whose Yahoo! accounts were filtering out forwarded messages from Harvard alumni webmail.

Andrew K. Tiedemann, communications director of alumni affairs and development, responded to the complaints Friday by contacting Yahoo! customer service.

“The problem was fixed on Friday morning with no word from Yahoo! as to what the problem was,” Tiedemann said.

Though representatives from Yahoo! were not available for comment over the weekend, the malfunction appears to have stemmed from Yahoo!’s junk-mail-eliminating feature, which is sensitive to any “message or posting, regardless of its content, that is sent to multiple recipients who have not specifically requested the message.”

While only a handful of former students complained to the Alumni Association, the error had the potential to affect a great number of alums, as roughly 80-90 percent of graduates have signed up for the post.harvard service. These alum e-mail accounts are a relatively new service provided by the Alumni Association.

Since 1998, former students have been allowed to sign up for a account. E-mail sent to this alumni address is then forwarded to the e-mail service the alum has chosen for everyday use, such as Yahoo! or Hotmail.

The alum accounts have allowed former students to maintain Harvard e-mail addresses to showcase their ties to Harvard post Commencement—that is, until Yahoo! started redirecting all incoming Harvard e-mail into the bulk mail folder.

Starting this November, however, problems like this may be rendered an impossibility when Harvard will begin giving graduates actual e-mail accounts.